FAITH AND CULTURE | Gifted in the Spirit

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Our culture places a high value on people's expertise and abilities. We treasure having the right person with the right skill set and personality for a given responsibility. In fact, a whole industry is devoted to researching and finding the perfect candidate for a job. High-performance companies and institutions typically hire trusted firms to run job searches.

Consequently, we spend time and resources attending seminars, workshops and certificate programs to update our skills to help us improve our emotional intelligence and become interculturally competent professionals. For some, the drive to succeed also includes personalized coaching sessions, and ongoing professional development focused on best practices and trends.

The commitment to be the best qualified candidate transcends the work environment. Many of us have friends or family members who labor hard at honing a particular talent or skill. For example, musicians spend countless hours practicing their instruments, driven by their passion and love for music and entertainment. The same is true in sports, where we often see the beauty and agility in athletes' performances, but are unaware of their many sacrifices.

At one time or another, all of us have wanted to better ourselves. Sometimes this desire is connected to our families, for example a yearning to be better husbands, wives, siblings or parents. At other times, we strive to learn a new skill related to cooking or gardening.

The resolve to improve also manifests itself in spirituality and faith life. We often look for meaningful readings and practices that aid us in our spiritual development. We attend retreats or pilgrimages and do our best to cultivate a prayer life that suits our personality and rhythm in life.

Even further, we find inspiration in faith companions who share our passion for a particular holy or virtuous cause. For some, this means following in the footsteps of holy men and women who have gone before us, such as St. Clare of Assisi, St. Louise de Marillac, St. Teresa of Avila or St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. For others, the path to virtue or holiness is more contemporaneous with a particular social issue, as is the case for those who actively work for peace, justice and reconciliation in the world.

Without diminishing the abundance of good that comes from our efforts both in the secular and religious spheres, much of our desire for virtue and holiness is also a matter of sheer grace. "On each one of us God's favor has been bestowed in whatever way Christ allotted it" (Ephesians 4:8). Indeed, much of our desire to grow in perfection rests on our ability to remain faithful to the measure we have been given in Christ: "If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow completely into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole Body is fitted and joined together" (Ephesians 4:15-16).

Moreover, we know in faith that the Spirit of God continues to work in our lives, providing all of the guidance and updating we need, and gracing us with distinct gifts that build up our church and society. "But at work in all these (different gifts) is one and the same Spirit, distributing them at will to each individual" (1 Corinthians 12:11). In the Lenten season, let us be attentive to the gifts we have received in the Spirit; and in humility, let us recognize that God has already given us all that we need.

Orozco is executive director of Intercultural and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

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